Ways to Protect Your (Copy) Rights
We small artists certainly lack a lot of things that come easier to people associated with the big labels and companies; in my opinion, what we miss the most are the lawyers. Because they’ve been trained to navigate the treacherous waters of law, and we haven’t.
When I started this blog I set up to help us all with the intellectual property issue, so that’s what I’m going to try and do here: I have compiled some tricks and trades of the biz which we all can benefit from.
First things first, there are most common 3 legal ways to protect your work: copyright, trademark, and patents. Let’s see what they are most generally used for:
Copyright is a legal right that guarantees that the creator of an original work hold exclusive rights for its use and distribution; although sometimes referred to as “all rights reserved” management, the exclusive rights are not absolute – there are limits and exceptions to copyright law, including fair use. It’s not, by any means, an universal rights: each country has its own specifications as to what kinds of work can be copyrighted and for how long (usually between 50 to 100 years), as well as the limits and exceptions applied – that being said, most countries abide by the Berne Convention and the Universal Copyright Convention.
In all the countries that apply the Berne Convention standards, copyright is automatic (i.e., doesn’t need be acquired through official registration). According to the Convention, when an idea has been made into a concrete form (such as a drawing, sheet music, photograph, a videotape, or a computer file, anything tangible), the copyright holder is entitled to enforce their rights.
That’s why it’s always a good idea to have every step of your work recorded somewhere, be it a computer file, a notebook, anything that, if necessary, can prove that you developed that piece.
Trademarks are used exclusively to identify the commercial origin of products or services. It’s also based on exclusive rights – in this case, the rights to a certain image that represents your company and/or product.
Unlike copyrights and patents, a Trademark does not expire: as long as you’re paying for it, you have the exclusive rights to it. In addition, a trademark grants a package of rights to its holder that include products and services related to the company (unlike the copyright, which only affects the final materialized work).
A patent is a set of rights that a country grants to an inventor or assignee for the detailed public disclosure of an invention – which is a solution to a technological problem. Like the copyright, patents expire after some time: again, each country has their own set of rules and regulations concerning the granting of patents, although the usual is 20 years (subject to the payment of regular fees). And opposed to the copyright, a patent gives its holder the right to prohibit other people from making, using, or selling the invention.
Creative Commons is an USA not-for-profit organization that was devised as an alternative to copyright. The main idea behind it is to provide artists with the choice of which rights they want to keep and which they wish to wave so that the artistic community can profit from their work, by allowing it to be the base of something new.
Creators can apply for a CC license in their website; the process is quite simple, since it guides de user in acquiring the desired license through a super user-friendly interface. Compared to the traditional copyright process, a CC license is cheaper, faster, and easier to manage for both creators and licensees.
Phew! Just a quick word: these are only general ideas about each kind of license. Depending on where you live, a CC license can be a good idea – or totally unnecessary. There are also your other needs to consider: if you sell objects like pottery, getting a trademark might be good.
Anyway, I hope I gave you somewhere to start. Best of luck!